Let me preface - the title should be “The Ride Formerly Known as Seven Thousand.” My little group did the short route. Short is relative here, 70 miles and 7,000’+ of elevation is not short in any way of the word. The folks I rode with broke down into two groups. One set new to visit this area, and two of us fairly versed in these roads.
These roads... these roads do not disappoint.
It started off a little hap-hazard, at least for us. It was pretty chilly this morning, in the high 20’s or so with the sun just starting to rear its head. We all fumbled with what to wear and decide what should be worn and packed for the potential upper 50’s that we might run in to. We were running a little behind and know that it wasn’t sanctioned, if that’s the proper word, so it didn’t really matter when we rolled out. We got off just a bit late and ran into a rather big group of the Half Acre crew and we rolled out with them for a very short while.
Right away we were having little issues with the cold so we had a few stops to try and get things ironed out. I was having trouble getting warmed up because every ascent was followed by a blistering descent and chilled me right back up. I even rode the brakes on a few as to try and keep just a little bit warm. It didn’t.
Then we made it to the B-road. Pretty much every route Mr. Ament puts together has at least one B-road and I always look forward to it. I will admit I preferred this one to be early in the ride while my head was still together. We ran into a little traffic but had made the most of it and had a blast shooting down the very rutted grass road. Feet still cold. I knew I wore the wrong shoes.
One more big ascent and I had to stop and take my shoes and shoe covers off to try to warm up and bit and boy did it help. This stop worked out in two ways. I got to warm my feet and then crush it for a bit to catch back up to the group and get the blood really flowing.
The bad thing about the cold is it kind of tricks you into not eating or drinking enough. When you’re not sweating as much you don’t think you need as much to drink and it’s always hard to remember that the cold makes your body work harder to keep warm.
We had our only real issue with that at around mile 30 when Kelly was really feeling the hills and hadn’t really ate much since the start. We stopped she chowed down on some grub and we got back rolling. She was back to smashing up the hills in no time.
Then we came up to a familiar intersection. Last time I remember being there a truck with a tent and lots of water was there to greet us in the first 10K route. And this time we took the same turn. Right up possibly the longest hill in the 70 mile route. And I remembered it well. I like to turn my Garmin screen to show me what the instant grade is when I get the hills like this to see exactly how much hurt is being put on me. And if I remember correctly there was a few moment of very high teens looking back at me. On top of that there was some nice loose gravel to make you have to zig zag around the road to try and keep from spinning out.
A little bit later we crossed the “famous” bridge and we did our due diligence and stop for a bit of a photo shoot. Just after that we ran into a familiar face even though we didn’t realize it at first (Hi Morleigh!) I just thought Stay Rad has been out there so much that the locals were starting to recognize us.
From there we rolled into Elizabeth. I was in the mode to just stop quickly at the gas station, grab a snack or two, top off the bottles, and get back on the road. I was apparently the only one with that mindset and I was ok with it. We stopped at the little café and I snuck in my gas station sammy and Pepsi and enjoyed a little sit.
That’s when we ran into the first group of many that decided to go the short route and just make a damn good day of it. I’m certain that had Eric not already pitched the idea of going short to me a few weeks earlier I would have made the same decision.
Rolling out of Elizabeth was amazing. Long paved hills with descents that matched and seemed to just go on and on. The sun was out, we had bellies full of food and only 24 miles to go, time to go! OK, maybe I was the only one with that that frame of mind but it did give me some time to get a few decent pictures of Kelly, Eric, and Chuks climbing up some of the hills with beautiful back drops. As the miles ticked away Eric noticed the good old Stockton water tower and we knew we were getting close to the end. Just a good little jaunt into the head wind and a hill that looked suspiciously like an exponential growth graph on my Garmin left between us and the end of the ride. At that point it was just Chuks and I and we took a little break on the top so he get the feeling back in his arms after smashing up that hill with his 1X set up.
Knowing we were mere minutes away I tried to see if I could beat my top speed so far on the route of 45 mph and just tucked down and smashed it down. I didn’t get it but damn it was fun trying.
As we rolled into town a ran into another group that decided to make it a shorter day. I had a quick talk with Johnnie and the Half Acre crew before heading back to the hotel where there was many more smiling familiar faces sitting outside absorbing the sun, drinking beers and waiting for the long haul folks to roll in.
Some fresh clothes, a beer or two, and we got word that Matt Wagner and Bailey Newbrey had just got to the restaurant. So we packed up and headed over for some grub and drinks. While there, a few more familiar faces rolled by... each one of them sporting a smile.
All in all, it was another great day in the Driftless all put together by the map master, Chad Ament. Sadly he was having too much fun in CO to be there but I know he was there in spirit.
Nicely done Chad! Thanks again for a great ride!